The Campbell Institute

The Campbell Institute: Global supply chain considerations for the ESH professional

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The Campbell Institute at the National Safety Council is the EHS center of excellence. Built on the belief that EHS is at the core of business vitality, the Institute seeks to help organizations, of all sizes and sectors, achieve and sustain excellence. Learn more at the Campbell Institute website.

As the world gets smaller in the age of globalization, the scope of the environmental, safety and health professional must grow to meet the demands of further reaching operations that push the traditional boundaries of responsibility. Should the impact of a company safety program stop at the corporate “fence line,” or does a more holistic approach make sense and then become expected by shareholders and customers? Corporate Social Responsibility programs are demanding deeper engagement by ESH professionals in the upstream and downstream impacts of supplier operations and company products.

Delivering ESH value to the supply chain is perhaps one of the most exciting opportunities for an ESH professional and will require new tools, skill sets and a more inclusive understanding of the world. The challenge lies in managing to a much larger scale in an ever-constrained environment.

ESH professionals have always grappled with the best way to manage data and turn this information into valuable insights. Compounding the issue are the growing sources of information. The era of big data requires the ESH professional to stay current with IT tools, develop an IT strategy and partner closely with other teams to map the data needed for presenting company CSR metrics. Gathering insights from such large datasets has never been more possible than now with the help of data analytics software and data visualization experts.

Aside from keeping up with the latest productivity tools, ESH professionals must embrace new electronic communication tools to work in the global and virtual workspaces. The shift from traditional email correspondence and the rise of messaging applications and virtual workspaces challenge traditional company communications. More established professionals must recognize the need to expand their methods to communicate effectively with millennials and global partners.

These technology developments also present some personal development opportunities. Ongoing training regarding software and technology should be a priority career development discussion. Additionally, expanding networks with other teams such as HR, Sourcing, Manufacturing and R&D are critical to career success. Working with teams that are closely associated with managing supplier accounts or developing new business needs with suppliers, the ESH professional can bring safety and environmental specifications into early contract negotiations or product design.

With a global supply chain, the ESH professional must be skilled at working with people from different backgrounds. Building inclusive global networks requires an honest and concerted effort to respect and embrace diversity. An integrated approach to team diversity values cultural differences and seeks to find new ways of working together.

New technology and people challenges in managing the global supply chain present the organization with important decisions as well. Aligning company vision and purpose to the greater good of improving the lives of supply chain workers and their communities may be viewed positively by investors interested in CSR. This commitment can then provide a mandate for the ESH professional to operate in a purpose-driven manner aligned with the business.

Lastly, working together with similar companies via industry groups and other partnerships can deliver efficiencies and provide standardized solutions. The scale of improving ESH practices to suppliers and then sub-suppliers is daunting and best addressed with the help of strong partnerships.

Fortunately, the study of supply chain management is rapidly growing and the maturity of the ESH profession has never been more advanced. ESH professionals are, more and more, responsible for managing CSR supply chain initiatives because they have the technical background needed and they bring the passion for making the workplace and world better.

This article represents the views of the author and should not be construed as a National Safety Council endorsement.

Bryan Trotter works for Microsoft and is part of the Safety, Compliance, and Sustainability team. He is a chemical engineer and is currently pursuing a Master’s degree. Microsoft is a member of the Campbell Institute at the National Safety Council.


 

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